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Closer Pakistan-Iran military ties proposed

December 04, 2012

— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The first Pakistan-Iran parliamentary dialogue on security recommended on Monday contacts between military and intelligence leaders of the two countries to address the underlying mistrust that refuses to go despite enhanced political exchanges keenly flaunted by both countries.

The Senate Defence Committee, which has broken taboos in the realm of national security by opening up debates on defence budget, counter-terrorism policies, civil-military relations, had this time invited a delegation of Iranian parliament led by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman, National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Majlis-i-Shura, for security dialogue.

Despite improvement in bilateral ties that followed elimination of Jundullah threat two years ago, security establishments of both countries remain wary of each other as reflected by sluggish progress on different mega projects that political leaders of the two countries have agreed.

Differences over tackling extremism, terrorism, human trafficking and border coordination have been contributing to the trust deficit. The US and Saudi influence on Pakistan has been yet another cause of divergences.

While Senator Kalsoom Parveen during the dialogue referred to some hidden tensions and distrust, the leader of Iranian delegation noted that he wasn’t satisfied with the current state of economic and political ties. “Big steps are needed,” he noted.

Chairman of the Senate defence committee Mushahid Hussain hoped for stronger political, economic and security ties, saying it was very much possible because the two countries did not have any conflict of interest.

The two sides discussed various issues pertaining to security ranging from counter-terrorism, nuclear issues and narcotics control to Shia-Sunni sectarian strife.

The most significant proposal for strengthening the bilateral relationship came from Senator Mohammad Khan Sheerani of the JUI-F who called for military-to-military contacts.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, his counterpart Mr Boroujerdi and members of the committee immediately concurred and it was agreed to recommend a regular interaction of military and intelligence officials.

The leader of the Iranian delegation also called for expediting the visit of Iranian defence minister to Pakistan that had been held up for several reasons.

Discussing Iran’s nuclear programme, Mr Boroujerdi said Iran withstood all western pressure and upheld its right to peaceful civilian nuclear programme.

In a rare admission, the leader of Iranian delegation said Iran was arming Palestinian groups Hamas, Jehad-i-Islami and Hezbollah, providing them everything from bullets to missiles and surveillance drones.

OBL COMPOUND: About the landing of a US drone RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft last year by Iranian Army’s electronic warfare unit, Mr Boroujerdi said information decoded from the drone related to reconnaissance of Osama bin Laden’s compound before the Al Qaeda leader was taken out in a raid by US Special Forces.

But he didn’t disclose if the information had been shared with Pakistani authorities, who had been probing the incident.

He said they (the Americans) knew that Iranians had been able to access some of that information.

Presidency’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said the PPP government firmly remained committed to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and resisted all sorts of pressures. “This government would take this project to conclusion,” he said.